David Shakes talks to co-curator and esteemed horror writer Stephanie 'Steph' Ellis about how she wound up involved in the project.
1) So, Stephanie, you went from having to enter a competition to get a timeslot in the book, to becoming co-curator and linchpin of the project. How the hell did that happen?
Right, first it’s Steph in conversation, not Stephanie. I’ve reserved my ‘proper’ name for written author bylines only. When I was small, the only time my Dad would use my proper name was when I was in trouble (otherwise they called me Stevie but that’s parents/sisters & their children only, although twitter seems to have got in on the act) – to everyone else it’s Steph.
Now back to the book. Fate? Not in my right mind? Sod’s Law? Haven’t the faintest, it just sort of crept up on me. I had heard ideas for the anthology being mooted but not necessarily being on twitter at the right time I managed to miss the boat. I was a bit miffed at that. However I knew how much my co-curator Shakes and the successful contributors wanted to get this done so I offered my services to help pull it together. Things went a bit quiet but I kept an eye on the messages about The Infernal Clock and saw a slot had opened up subject to competition so I thought I’d give that a go. Thing was, nobody else entered – to this day I’m convinced everyone felt sorry for me and ‘let’ me have 3 a.m. Then again, things went quiet, until a message from Shakes asking if I’d help pull it together and if I had another story; his own work pressures had pretty much delayed things. But life does have an unfortunate habit of getting in the way so no one should ever feel guilty about that.
2) Your horror writing has won many admirers, me included, why do you think your work appeals to so many readers?
Truly, I really don’t know. I never, ever thought I’d end up writing what I do, and believe me I still don’t know how I do it. It may be the imagery I develop – I love that, trying to build pictures that just hint at something until the whole scene is suddenly there in your head and you’ve creeped yourself out in the process. I wrote a short flash piece recently for The Angry Hourglass in which a character initially appears as some sort of mad murderer (explicit) but reading between the lines you discover he actually mutilates humans and keeps them as ‘pets’. I also like to catch people out when I add an element of what I call matter-of-factness to my writing which contrasts and then heightens any madness in the characters. So perhaps that’s it, show don’t tell – with a dash of psychosis.
3) Once a book is in the wild, the 'business' of marketing it begins - what do you make of the whole thing?
Scarier than writing and very much a learning curve. There are things I’m looking at via this self-publishing course I won a while back which focuses on marketing and selling. I just haven’t had a chance to look at it all properly yet; there’s audiobooks, translations, book trailers and have you seen the world of book vloggers? I asked my daughter to send me links to her favourite vloggers recently so I could check them out, it’s a whole different world out there. And there’s conventions, going on a panel, the thought frightens the life out of me but if I really had to do it, I would. Once upon a time you could write something and leave it to the publishers to push the final product. Now it’s the poor old author who has to put on a very public face and sell themselves in a very saturated market.
I also believe that it’s a long haul process so there will be peaks and troughs and you just have to accept it.
Can I go back to writing now please?
4) Which book, horror or otherwise, do you wish you'd written yourself and why?
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. One of my favourite novels and one which I return to every so often. What stays with me from this book is the whole sense of atmosphere. Right from the start you know something dark and evil is approaching, eventually to be revealed in the shape of the nightmare Carnival. Even when I can’t remember a character’s name or a bit of the plot, the book with its oppressive and dark imagery continues to haunt me. To be able to haunt someone with imagery drawn from your words is a skill indeed.
5) If you were character from the world of horror and the fantastique, who would you be and why?
Me? I’m a nice person. Actually it’s not really horror but I wouldn’t mind being Terry Pratchett’s DEATH. He has some wonderful one-liners and he’s quite fond of humans, plus he has a horse called Binky.
“DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”
6) Fancy doing this again?
Of course, always a glutton for punishment and as the genius that was Terry Pratchett says “Insanity is catching.”